Elected officials visit recycling center

Haley Gustafson | Daily Press Delta Solid Waste Management Authority (DSWMA) Manager Don Pyle, second from right, explains the various recycling processes at the Delta County Recycling Center as State Senator Tom Casperson, far left, State Rep. Beau LaFave, and State Rep. Scott Dianda, far right, listen during their visit to the center Wednesday morning.

ESCANABA — Government officials took a tour of the Delta County Recycling Center in Escanaba Wednesday morning to learn about the recycling processes, methods, and overall goals of the center.

Manager of the Delta Solid Waste Management Authority (DSWMA) Don Pyle took State Senator Tom Casperson, Rep. Beau LaFave, and Rep. Scott Dianda around the facility, showcasing each aspect of the center and how the operation runs in Delta County.

“My goal is to show you a little bit of what we do here at this facility,” said Pyle.

Throughout the guided tour, Pyle gave a brief description of each resource managed at the facility, including the use of Lakestate Industries workers to sort through the recyclable materials before they are bundled and shipped away. Lakestate provides people within Delta County who have disabilities the opportunity to work within the community, and Pyle said having them work at the recycling center provides valuable jobs to those people. Over 50 people from Lakestate work at the center.

Pyle explained that the recycling center accepts a variety of paper, plastic, aluminum cans, and cardboard items that are sorted through a “single stream” method. The items are then placed into bins where they go into a baler to be cubed and shipped away. In addition to paper products, the center also accepts old electronics such as TVs and computers, household hazardous waste, drain oil, paint, and much more.

Pyle also spoke with the elected officials about the cost of keeping a recycling center fully functional, noting that the newly enacted recycling millage in Delta County has generated about $327,000 since the millage took full effect in January. It was approved by voters in Delta County last August.

The millage, which increased taxes for Delta County residents by 0.3 mills (30 cents per $1,000 of taxable value) for 10 years, will help fund the DSWMA’s recycling, composting, and household hazardous waster disposal services.

One of the biggest issues Pyle sees within the recycling industry is the lack of education and information provided to the general public and legislatures.

“There needs to be a lot more education and a lot more political will,” said Pyle, adding that with recycling comes the need to research and develop other methods of disposing garbage and other materials.

Casperson agreed with Pyle, noting there tends to be a “tunnel visioned” way of thinking about recycling and there should be a more expansive thought process of what to do with materials that could be made into something else of valuable worth.

“We need to start asking ‘What’s the best thing to use that for?”said Casperson, adding it is cheaper to log a load of wood and haul it to a paper mill than it is to process paper for recycling.

Also in attendance for the tour was the executive director for the Michigan Recycling Coalition, Kerrin O’Brien.

According to the coalition’ website, “The Michigan Recycling Coalition (MRC) represents recycling and composting interests statewide. The Coalition is a recognized authority on waste reduction, beneficial utilization, recycling, and composting through the experience of its Staff and Committees.”

O’Brien explained that currently Michigan has a 15 percent recycling rate and the coalition is looking to increase that rate by another at least another 15 percent. In order to reach that goal, O’Brien said the state needs to look at its recycling policies, as some are 40 years old.

“We need to shift our focus from a waste economy to a resource used based economy,” said O’Brien.

In 2014, 8.4 million tons of waste was disposed and 1.4 million tons of material was recycled in Michigan.